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St Peter and Holy Cross church, Wherwell
Most of the fabric of the present church is mid-nineteenth century in date, although traces of the earlier medieval structure still survive, and a collection of early architectural fragments, probably from the priory church, are displayed in the north aisle. These include a Saxon cross-shaft, two late 13th century carved stone reliefs, a pier base bearing the name Tho(ma)s Beow, and fragments from a stone coffin. There is also the recumbent effigy of a nun, originating from the priory church but more lately moved from a niche in the churchyard wall, once thought to represent the Abbess Euphemia but now tentatively identified as Juliana Overey. The original aim of the survey was to examine these earlier fragments for historical graffiti, and to look for any surviving medieval fragments preserved within the church fabric or its surrounding walls.
On the interior church fabric the most striking and unusual graffito was the carefully incised drawing of a church building with tall tower - Photo 4 below. This was on the west-facing wall of the passageway between the vestry and chancel. What building it represents is unknown, but it does not seem to be this church. Some geometric shapes, crosses and patterns were found on the sill of window; one may be an elaborate VV pattern - Photo 5 below. These were originally invocations to the Virgin Mary, VV standing for Virgo Virginum, Virgin of the Virgins, but post-Reformation they were used more generally as apotropaic symbols, protecting against evil.
The most productive areas for graffiti were the wooden organ casing and the pews. One was Denis Harding who carefully carved his name on 1st July 1939 - Photo 6. Sadly this gentleman had only died a short time before our first visit, so would have been about 12 when he left his mark. Some people whiled away their time listing animals, or left lists of dates or references to the order of service. Others dreamt of racing cars - Photo 7 - or drew caricatures - Photo 8.
On the church exterior only one graffito was noted: a cross on the north wall. The Ordnance Survey benchmark on the SE corner of the S aisle was recorded.
Karen Wardley, Co-ordinator, HMGP, October 2019
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